Pellet plant puts Chase at crossroads

There's a weighty decision ahead for Chase council that could change the fabric of the community.

Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group is proposing to build a $40-million wood-pellet manufacturing plant on the site of a former sawmill operation that shut down in 2005.

While the location on Aylmer road has traditionally been largely industrial, it is currently zoned as general residential and resort commercial, and there are houses about 150 metres away from the proposed site.

The zoning will need to be changed to industrial in order to allow the plant, which will use wood fibre from Adams Lake Lumber. The proposal
offers exciting potential - the plant is expected to employ 25 people directly and produce 15 offshoot jobs.

Pinnacle would become a major employer in the village of 2,500 and everyone knows more business means additional tax revenue, which can
either spell less for residential taxpayers to pay or the possibility of additional services or facilities, such as a skatepark or a pool, for instance.

But there is some strong - and well organized - opposition to the plant, residents who are concerned about dust, noise, traffic, environmental impacts and how having industry in the middle of town will affect their recreation-oriented retirement community.

The opponents plan to attend a public hearing about the rezoning on Tuesday, at which time they will outline their concerns to council.

One of the members of the group even went up to Williams Lake and Armstrong, where two of the company's six B.C. pellet plants operate. He interviewed residents and business owners near those sites to gain a better understanding of the impact of the plants there and heard lots about
issues with sawdust.

Not wanting to be labelled as NIMBYs, they plan to propose alternatives - suggesting Pinnacle locate its operation in the bush by the Adams Lake mill instead or at the industrial park near Barriere where the Louis Creek sawmill used
to be.

Choosing between the opportunity for jobs and improved economic prosperity versus a perceived change to their quality of life is not an easy decision, and one Kamloops residents also face with the proposed Ajax mine.

There are many hurdles ahead before the plant proceeds, but Tuesday night offers residents the chance to express their views to council, which will decide if the plant crosses the first hurdle of rezoning. If Chase residents have something to say, now is the time to make their voices heard.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News

Popular Editorial